As sorry as he says he is for yelling “Heil Hitler! Heil Trump!” last Wednesday during a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof,” Anthony Derlunas’ drunken shouting angered many around town, and put some of the Hippodrome’s theater-goers on edge for fear of another anti-Semitic outburst (or worse).
Today, a group of Baltimore actors announced they’ve banded together in solidarity against hate, forming the Guerrilla Theatre Front to put on theatrical performances “with no bounds” and without “the traditional footholds of theater spaces and companies”—which is to say, in impromptu pop-up fashion, and in unconventional places.
Their first show, “Dogs of Art #1,” is set for tonight at 7 p.m. at W. Baltimore and N. Eutaw streets, right outside the Hippodrome. Lance Bankerd, an organizer with the group who identified himself as its “chief rabble-rouser,” said the group of about 20 performers first met on Friday, and practiced and finalized the show last night.
The production is “five minutes of movement, song, and a little bit of commedia, [that] then leaves as quickly as it came,” Bankerd said. Some other details: Contributors include local Jewish artist Gaya Sel, mask maker Tara Cariaso and violinist Jonathan Goren, who previously played in a production of “Fiddler on the Roof” that Bankerd directed with Third Wall Productions. Goren will perform an original melody composed just for this show.
Bankerd said “Dogs of Art #1” deals with anti-Semitism “as it exists on a larger scale,” and portrays a Jewish person as someone who, “when they are confronted with the jeers and slurs that are so painful and intense to watch, they do not shirk or meet them with violence.”
While the show doesn’t reference a specific incident in its plot, Bankerd nodded to the outburst at the Hippodrome, as well as the troubling appearance of Ku Klux Klan-promoting flyers around Ellicott City this past weekend, as inspiration for the effort. “These things are pushing us, and that was sort of the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Those who can’t make the first performance on the west side of downtown tonight can catch two others shortly after, at 8 p.m. at S. Gay and E. Lombard streets, right outside Baltimore’s Holocaust Memorial Park, and at 9 p.m. at S. Broadway and Thames streets, at Broadway Square in Fells Point.
Bankerd said the flash production will show “the strength of community” in response to messages of hate.
“Our hope is to shed a light on the artistic work being done to fight the darkness within our society,” the Guerrilla Theatre Front said in an announcement today. “It is important to us that the community we serve, and the world at large, knows that the artistic community of Baltimore will not tolerate the hate, injustice & intolerance of those who wish to instill fear in us.”
In the incident that made national news last week, Derlunas was sitting in a crowd at the Hippodrome watching the widely celebrated musical, based on a Yiddish tale about a poor Jewish family dealing with persecution in Tsarist Russia in 1905, when he stood up during intermission and shouted about Adolf Hitler and President Donald Trump, who’s curried favor among increasingly emboldened white nationalists in 2018’s America. One woman who was there that night told Baltimore Fishbowl she saw him Sig Hiel—the celebratory Nazi salute—at least twice.
A police report released the following day said Derlunas had been “drinking heavily throughout the night” and had not taken his usual medication, per his girlfriend. The Hippodrome’s ushers and security promptly escorted him out and led to responding officers, who did not detain or arrest Derlunas, but rather issued him a “stop ticket” carrying no penalty and sent him on his way.
Derlunas told the officer who wrote up the report that he had shouted the words after a scene “reminded him of his hatred for Donald Trump.” The officer wrote that he believed Derlunas about his intentions.
The Hippodrome subsequently said it would beef up security for the rest of the run of “Fiddler” at the theater, which ended last night, and banned Derlunas from the theater.
The next production in the pop-up series, “Dogs of Art #2,” touches on the increasingly commonplace tragedy of mass shootings, Bankerd said. They also have other productions in the works, including Neil Simon’s “Odd Couple,” to be performed at an apartment, the rock musical “Hair,” to play out in the woods, and Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus,” which they’ll perform in an old warehouse.
In pop-up fashion, dates will be kept “tight and close,” Bankerd said.
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